The other night our double bedroom doors burst wide open at 1:03 a.m., startling both hubby and I awake. From the light in the hallway, I could make out that the perpetrator of our early morning wake up call was our youngest son, Luke.
“What’s up, Luke?” I asked, although I already knew the answer to this question.
Luke is our “good” sleeper. While his brother tosses and turns in the top bunk, Luke slumbers peacefully. He sleeps in cars, on planes, and in restaurants. When he’s down for the count, you usually don’t have to worry about him again.
“I had a nightmare,” he replied as he quietly closed the door behind him with sudden politeness.
“Really? What about?” I said.
As he began to climb onto our bed, he started recalling a dream wherein he was being chased in Roblox, which is some new video game he and his brother have been playing. He sat on the end of our already cramped, queen-size bed telling us about snakes (like Indiana Jones, he hates snakes) and death. He was visibly unsettled. Often he will just tell us about his nightmares, and then head back to his room. Sometimes, though, he needs real comfort. I could tell this was one of those times. Finished with his story, he finally crawled toward the top of the bed, pulled back the covers between me and hubby, and began to insinuate himself between us.
“So…sorry about this, guys,” he told us as he nestled in and began to settle down to get some more sleep.
When Luke was small, we experienced periods during which the only way he would fall asleep was in our bed. He slept in a bassinet in our room until he was four months old. He slept with us again off and on from 9 months to roughly 14 months. Sometimes he would fall asleep in our bed and we would transfer him. Sometimes we were so tired he ended up staying with us all night. When we would tell other people about Luke’s sleeping habits, most would cluck their tongues and tell us what a mistake we were making. We brushed it off.
In the house I grew up in, we were not allowed to sleep in my parents’ room. Ever. It simply was not done. My parents gave us our own rooms, and they expected us to be in them. End of story. When we had our children, I assumed that our kids would have the same experience that I did. But, our kids are not like my sisters and me. Our kids have vivid imaginations and stressful dreams. Joe sleepwalks. Luke, if aroused from sleep by an unexpected noise, is often unable to calm down enough to go back to sleep. We do what we can to get sleep when we can, and sometimes that only occurs when we let the boys sleep in our room. It is what it is. We have made our peace with it.
I flipped around as Luke was in our bed the other night, unable to go back to sleep. I could not get comfortable because what was once 20 pounds is now 55 pounds and takes up a lot more room. I was about to resign myself to taking Luke’s place in his bed while letting him rest peacefully with his dad when, out of nowhere, the announcement came.
“I think I’ll go back to my own bed now,” he said, grabbing his stuffed animal and climbing carefully over his father and out of the bed.
I walked with him down the hall and tucked him back into his bunk bed underneath his sleeping brother to make sure he was truly ready to settle down. He pulled his stuffed Husky dog, Shasta, towards him, curled into a little ball on his side, and closed his eyes. He was calm, and I knew I would not be seeing him again until the morning.
I’ve thought a lot about the way we “spoil” our kids by letting them do things like sleep in our room on occasion. Truth is that I don’t feel the slightest bit of remorse about it. I don’t think it’s undermined their confidence or made them any less capable of handling their fears. Instead, I think it’s allowed them to believe that when things get scary, they can turn to us. When they feel confident and relaxed, they always move forward without us. Sure. We’ve definitely lost some sleep with restless boys in our bed or on an air mattress in our room, but I think the trade off of knowing that they know they can count on us is worth it. Besides, these days are numbered. Someday they will be out of the house, and I will miss hearing that door burst open in the middle of the night and knowing that they need me. I’ll catch up on my sleep then.